"Nuh UH. I eat what I WANT!" (or How I'm Managing Gestational Diabetes with Diet)
As of yesterday my gestational diabetes "saga" has been downgraded to "annoyance". After meeting with the nutritionist last Friday she put me on a "watch" list with the high risk clinic (due to the high numbers when the glucometer had the huge margins of error). I discussed what was going on with them and we agreed that I would record my numbers for another week and then contact them again to determine if they actually needed to see me.
I stopped counting carbs and recording what I was eating. I ate in a way that made sense to me and took my sugar levels when I needed to.
I've been told that the high risk clinic does NOT want to hear from me again unless my numbers start climbing.
So how am I going about managing my blood sugar without starving to death or feeling horribly deprived? Well, unfortunately the information that I was given was extremely unhelpful (basically just said "count the carbs!" and nothing about quality of carbs or the speed things are absorbed into the blood stream) so it has taken a little bit of trial and error. Of course I have to add my disclaimer here: I am in no way, shape or form a doctor. Please don't take this as cut and dry medical advice. Just because this works for me doesn't mean it'll work for you. It also doesn't mean it won't work for you, so, that being said, here is what I've been eating:
Surprising no one, cheese is first on my list. Some dairy products you have to be careful about. Lactose turns into sugars when the body processes it, so while you wouldn't necessarily think "carb" when you see a glass of whole milk, they're in there. Most cheeses however, the lactose is reduced or eliminated while it's made. That means I can eat as much as I can stand. Awesome.
Careful on this one, "trail mix" can cover a multitude of sins that will send your blood sugar through the roof. I am not talking the M &M, peanuts and Chex Mix type of trail mix. The stuff I'm eating is mostly almonds, sunflower seeds and cashews with some dried fruit mixed in. You want lots of protein to a little bit of fruit sugar. My Mr. got me a couple of kinds from our local Whole Foods that are both delicious and "GD safe". A serving is 1 oz so we've been portioning it into old baby food jars that are just the right size. I don't really worry about spiking my blood sugar with these, so the portioning is more for predictability than anything. Also so I don't entirely ruin my appetite for dinner on trail mix.
Peanut butter was on the list of "free" foods the nutritionist gave me. This makes me a little bonkers, because while it's low carb and has lots of fats that make it so the carbs there are don't get into your blood quickly/easily, they're still there. I eat a lot of peanut butter and so when she was giving me a hard time about not eating enough carbs I had a hard time not yelling that if I were "allowed" to count the "free" foods I'd have a lot closer to the numbers she wanted. This gets slathered on my toast in the morning and gets eaten by the 1/2 cup full with carrots and celery. It's a good way to calm down a sweet tooth without heading for dangerous candy or cookies.
If you pay any attention to nutritional anything, you already know that avocado is a super food. Lots of good for you fats and no carbs to speak of. I usually just eat it with salt, pepper and a little bit of lemon juice, but we're always looking for new ways to get more avocado in our diet.
I preferred dark chocolate even before all of this started, but I can't help but feel justified now. For the same amount of carbs as I would be getting from a mini-milk chocolate fun-sized bar I can have a good 1/4 of a full sized bar of dark chocolate. The higher the Cacao content the more you get to eat. I personally like mine around 75%.
Brown and Wild Rice
Wait...rice?!? Yup, that's right. Here's where we get into slow carbs vs. fast carbs. Less processed grains are harder for your body to digest, so less of the sugars wind up in your blood stream, and the ones that do take longer to get there. Think of it as the difference between giving a toddler a bowl full of Skittles and giving them, say, an equal amount of Starburst candies. With the Skittles there's no unwrapping, nothing stopping them from shoveling entire handfuls of sugar straight down their gullet. That's white rice in this analogy. The Starburst/brown rice have to be individually unwrapped. It's time consuming and kind of annoying and so the kid/your body winds up with less sugar in the same amount of time.
Another one to be careful with. Like trail mix, this one can have a lot of added sugar, but coconut based sweets can be found that mostly just get their sweetness from the coconut itself. A better option than that box of Oreos I start thinking about when my hormones go crazy and I just want to curl up under a blanket and cry while watching rom-coms (man pregnancy is awesome).
Sauteed Mushrooms & Vegetables
These are kind of a no-brainer. Most of us should be eating more vegetables anyhow, but something that might not be so obvious when you're first managing gestational diabetes with diet is how difficult it can be to get enough fiber while cutting out carbs. I won't get into the details of that, but pregnant ladies, you know how much of an issue a lack of fiber can be. Eat your veggies.
Fish, Eggs & Meat
Plain Greek YogurtNo change in what I can eat in this category, but an increase in the amounts. Combining fats and proteins with your carbohydrates helps slow their absorption into your blood stream. That means that while vegetarian fettuccine alfredo may be a nightmare for your blood sugars whole grain spaghetti, heavy on the meat sauce and cheese may be fine.
Richer, thicker and more protein than normal yogurt. I mix in some frozen fruit and a small amount of low sugar (not sugar free) jelly when I'm not in the mood for peanut butter toast for breakfast.
Whole grain bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta...the grains I am eating are all as un-processed as I can find them. We try to do this anyhow, but it's especially important with gestational diabetes (or diabetes of any form for that matter).
What I'm avoiding:
Bowl full of Skittles embodied right here. I forgot how quickly corn's sugars get into your blood stream and bought a low carb, corn-based cereal to give myself another breakfast option. With essentially the same carb/sugar load as plain Cheerios (a perfect gestational diabetes breakfast option if you're into them) this cereal sent my blood sugars skyrocketing. Won't be eating those again til after 2.0 is born.
Like I said above, it's not so much that there's anything wrong with milk chocolate, it's just that you can eat so little of it without spiking your blood sugars it doesn't seem worth it. I'm staying with the dark side on this one.
Anything "Sugar Free"
OH dear god is the "solution" to "I'm diabetic, what can I eat?" always answered with "artificial sweeteners" or what. I don't do artificial sweeteners. The science that keeps coming out about them scares me to no end AND their taste makes me gag. Seriously, hide a pinch of that stuff in my drink some time, I will notice and I will slap you. Sure, I could be having a lot more "treats" if I tolerated them, but most artificial sweeteners aren't considered safe for preggos anyhow, so no way, no how.
Hopefully none of you guys will have to deal with any of this. Double-hopefully if you do get diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will have a much more helpful staff giving you much more complete and useful information than I have. But, in case you have a situation like mine, or in case you just want to start eating in a way that keeps your blood sugar levels a little more regulated with or without a diabetes diagnosis, this can be a place to start.White bread, white sugar, white rice, white flour pasta, white potatoes, all off the table. Like corn, these are all simplified to the point that my body's digestive toddler can shove spoonfuls of sugar in without stopping to unwrap anything. Not good news when it comes time to stab my finger.
Me? I'm going to keep being careful, but basically eating how we normally eat. I've tried to limit our pasta dishes to once a week for years now, so if that changes, it'll maybe just be that we'll only have them every other week, or every week and a half. If I have a big bowl of ice cream for dessert after dinner I'll just be doubly sure that it's on nights that dinner was steak and vegetables, and not on lasagna or fruit salad night.
I've added a "Low Carb" tag to the blog that I've attached to this post that you can click on to find the recipes I've written up that work with this kind of diet. I've also created a board on my Pinterest for Low/Slow Carb and Paleo/Primal dishes that I can use for the next few months and have already found a lot of really incredible looking recipes I can't wait to try. You can bet that as I try them out I'll be writing about them here, but if you'd like to see them all in one place, feel free to hop over and follow the board!
Pregnant and already follow a low-carb diet too? PLEASE click through and read the follow up!